“I’ll Have Some of That”

When my mother was ninety three  her mind receded into the murkiness of dementia. There were days when she did not know us, could not dress herself nor carry on a conversation. Yet, when we opened up a box of her favorite chocolate candy, she opened her hand, palm up and said “I’ll have some.” This is one touch point with reality my mother had managed to maintain.

I imagine that the hungry crowd in today’s Gospel probably held out their hands to the disciples as they distributed the blessed bread and fish and said, “I’ll have some of that.”  The miracle in today’s Gospel is essentially a  sign of God’s kingdom- where there is never scarcity nor lack of power to respond to others but always the superabundance of God’s nourishing and satisfying presence,

Jesus’ response to the crowds needs was an in-breaking of God’s kingdom, embodied by the very person and presence of Jesus whom the crowd sought. If we are the presence of the risen Christ today, then we too are an in-breaking of God’s kingdom when we reach out in compassion to satisfy the needs of others. [Living Liturgy 2014]

At the same time, we hold out our hands and say, “I will have some of that.” We must be willing to receive the life that divine presence brings so that being filled, we are the presence of Christ for others.

In His Name

This past month we were privileged to watch a young athlete tagged “the blade runner”, and if you were like me, we cheered him on, hoping that he would do his best. His missing limbs were part of his triumph, his resiliency to be independent and lead a happy, productive life. But no one would wish this on another. We need our arms and legs.

Yet, in this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus tells us to “cut…off” limbs that cause another to be lead astray; to cause us to be stumbling blocks. How drastic!

Four times Jesus says, it would “be better for you….” here Jesus speaks to us with such candor, that there is nothing more important [not even our limbs] than our entering the kingdom of God and our not being a cause for others to be led astray and thus lose entering the kingdom. If anything gets in the way of bringing us or others to the life of the kingdom, get rid of it!

On the other hand, anyone who is furthering the kingdom in his name belongs to Jesus’ inner circle. These we do not prevent from acting as long as they act in his name. Mighty deeds can only be done by those who are in relationship with God, those acting in Jesus’ name.

Alone we are powerless. The inner circle is not determined by us and whom we choose to admit to the group of disciples,but by God and who God chooses to work in and through for the sake of the kingdom.

What does it mean to be a follower of Christ? What are the stumbling blocks that impede our acting in Jesus’ name? Prejudice? Past negative experiences with certain persons? Jealousy? Fears? Narrow-mindedness? Self-centeredness?

The Gospel invites us to go beyond our own stumbling blocks. Living the gospel as a faithful disciple requires us to take stock of our actions and how others perceive who we are and how we act. Discipleship means that everything we are and do flows from our relationship with Christ.

Blessed Are You

My nephew was about to “graduate” from kindergarten. He put on his paper mortarboard and marched with his class to the stage. As he received his “diploma”, Jason shook hands with his teacher.  After the ceremony, we each said “Congratulations.”  Jason looked at us and asked, “What does that mean?” His mom and dad answered, “Good job!”

That answer worked for a five year old!

While this may be sufficient for a five year old, sometimes something deeper is intended.  If we look at the Latin – “congratulations” means “to be pleased with” or “graced with.” When we offer our congratulations, we are saying we rejoice with the other and it expresses a relationship.

The Beatitudes in our Gospel today announce God’s pleasure in and relationship to the poor, to those who are excluded and hated. With the Beatitudes, Luke highlights God’s generosity.

Luke seems to be exalting the downtrodden simply because they are downtrodden, and “cursing” the comfortable simply because they are comfortable. What really is at the heart of this Gospel is the manner of  life that makes present God’s reign of love. Jesus asks of us today to become people willing to feel our needs and to depend on God. Then we will also be open to our neighbor, to receive and to give. It is our relationship with God that motivates us to live the blessings that are given to us. And it is our relationship with God that motivates us to reach out to others. The model for this type of relationship is Jesus himself.